Arrests as a Solution for Homelessness? One Central Valley Community is Poised to Try.

Officials in Kern County are considering a radical approach to homelessness that would almost certainly invite a cascade of legal challenges.

The plan, which would jail homeless people in Bakersfield for minor offenses, is the brainchild of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and Dist. Atty. Cynthia Zimmer. To move forward, it would need approval from the Bakersfield City Council.

“Youngblood and Zimmer stressed that the homeless people who would receive jail sentences would be repeat offenders. The focus would be on jailing those charged with misdemeanors for heroin and methamphetamine possession and use, but Zimmer said she would also like to see trespassing charges included,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s unclear how arresting people for trespassing would work within the confines of current law. A number of court rulings and settlements prohibit law enforcement from arresting or otherwise punishing homeless people for sleeping on public property when there aren’t enough shelter beds. But Zimmer said she intends to work to develop a policy that is in line with those cases.”

Those legal questions are the elephant in the room. Should Bakersfield move forward, it will undoubtedly run into a legal fight.

Nonetheless, the Times says the idea is already popular in conservative Kern County.